The beautiful St. Joseph’s church at 10th and Howard Streets has sat vacant since the Archdiocese abandoned it after the 1989 earthquake. The stained glass has been stripped from the windows and a population of pigeons numbering in the tens of thousands has called the place home for much of the time since then.
Chris Foley and the Polaris Group bought the property a few years ago, hoping to include the surrounding school, convent, parish hall and rectory in a large commercial/residential development but the economy tanked and Foley’s little New York bank backed out. In swept Chris Harney and Tom Murphy, who sealed a deal with the Catholic Church, and out went Children’s Village, a day care center that served over 100 kids.
Foley has been working with the Planning Department on an adaptive re-use scheme that would retain the historical character of the building but would allow his investors to eventually recoup the expected two million dollars in seismic upgrades and other construction costs required.
Last night he presented a plan that would convert the building to offices, with a public restaurant opening onto an organic garden. The exterior of the building would be restored, with the addition of wheelchair accessible ramps along each side of the building and, other than adding a mezzanine around the edges of the interior, the dramatic heights and vistas of the sanctuary would be preserved.
Not much opposition to this plan from the SoMa Leadership Council. Foley managed to say just about everything right. Most of the animosity last night was reserved for the Bay West project, which will demolish the venerable Concourse exhibition hall and substitute hundreds more units of housing in an area ill-prepared for becoming a neighborhood.
Foley expects the proposal to be ready for the Planning Commission in about six months.